Nathaniel Cunningham, Ph.D.

Professor of Physics
Planetary Science & Astrophysics
Office location

326G Acklie Hall of Science

Office hours

Spring 2024:

Monday 11am-Noon
Tuesday 11am-Noon
Friday 10-11am

And by appointment -- email is a great way to arrange a time, or to request a Zoom meeting.

Feel free to seek me out in my office at other times.

ncunning [at]

I fell in love with Physics in high school, and pursued it in college, where I also discovered philosophy. After agonizing about whether to continue my studies in physics or philosophy after graduation, physics won out, and I chose to specialize in astrophysics.

In my graduate work, I developed astronomical instruments, and used them to study the births and deaths of stars. I have since worked on detector systems for the high-power Diocles laser system the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and I currently study the surfaces and atmospheres of small bodies in the Solar System using ultraviolet light observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Since 2007, I have contributed to NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto (and beyond!) and the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission that orbited a comet.

I joined the Physics faculty at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2010.


Ph.D., Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

M.S., Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

B.S., Physics, University of Notre Dame, summa cum laude
Minor: philosophy

Courses taught

Introduction to Meteorology
Principles of Physics I & II / General Physics I & II
Introduction to Modern Physics
Electronic Measurements
Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering
Electromagnetism & Optics
Classical Mechanics
Quantum Mechanics
Thermal and Statistical Physics

Research and academic interests

Ultraviolet spectroscopy

Small bodies in the Solar System: Moons, comets, asteroids. Properties of their surfaces and thin atmospheres/outgassing.

Astronomical instruments and detectors

Professional and community affiliations, certifications and awards

American Association of Physics Teachers
American Astronomical Society, Division of Planetary Science
Society of Catholic Scientists

Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Physics